Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

31 January 2006

Le Samouraï

You've probably never seen Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 film Le Samouraï. I'll wager you've probvably never even heard of it. I barely heard of it a month or two ago when The Criterion Collection released a DVD of the film. After reading a brief synopsis, I immediately put in my Netflix queue. I was beat to the punch, though, when my boss came back from lunch one day in December with the DVD in her possession.

Anyway, I saw it tonight. And if you've never heard of it, seen it, whatever, you need to. Rent it or put it in your Netflix queue or do whatever it is you do to see films, but go see this one.

It's about a lone wolf assassin named Jef Costello (Alain Delon) with all the right moves and an air of silence that makes you want to scream or die or I don't know what. He's so cool I could barely contain myself and the movie is a taut, achingly intelligent thriller. Awesome. See it now.

More complete thoughts on the Academy Award nominations tomorrow. Sorry, but I was up early to see them and I've been processing them all day. I could have blogged earlier, but my student showed and we did about two hours of work and then Le Samouraï beckoned.

Briefly, though: Amy Adams!!!! and William Hurt!!! Both of those nominations delighted me. The New World picked up one nomination, which is one more than I expected, frankly, though it is my favorite film of the year. Other exciting things: Terrence Howard for Hustle & Flow and "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" (who thought that would be nominated?) Congrats also to my second favorite film of the year, Brokeback Mountain, which leads with eight nominations and will handily pick up the big trophy on March the fifth.

More tomorrow...

29 January 2006

He Paints

No movies today. I just couldn't.

Happy New Year, by the way.
To celebrate, my dear friends , and I went to Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park to have a little dim sum. After that I came home to paint. I'm trying to paint things and decorate my condo and keep it clean and stuff. That's my New Year's Resolution.

So I came home and painted the hallway between my toilet and my bedroom. It's now a lovely color from Restoration Hardware called Spanish Moss. It took a lot out of me, this painting. After I finished I was just exhausted. Actually, I think it was a combination of things, beginning with me not getting enough sleep any night last week, compounded by staying out drinking inconceivably late last night at The Continental Room, coupled with waking up early to go celebrate the new year with my friends.

Oh, Matthew came over and installed a new hard drive and Windows XP on my computer and now I can use my iPod (which is the cutest little thing I have ever seen.)

28 January 2006

The Edukators

Another bad movie for Saturday morning. This time it's Hans Weingartner's The Edukators. In German it's called Die Fetten Jahre Sind Vorbei, which I think means "Your Days of Plenty Are Numbered" or something similar. It's a film--not unlike Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers--about young, disaffected Europeans who want to enact social justice on their own terms and bring down all of the capitalist pigs that make their lives bad. Except that they're really making their own lives bad. I've never understood this kind of revolution, and none of the films I see about radicals of this kind make me like them any better. Filmmakers always seem to confuse social revolution with sexual revolution, as well. There is all of this talk of free-love, even though no one really believes it and criminal acts like vandalism and terrorism are supposed to be okay. The audience is supposed to root for criminal behavior as though it were really the way to feed the hungry in the third world. I don't think I know how to feed all of the hungry in the third world, but I think I'm pretty sure that re-arranging furniture in upper-class German homes isn't going to do it, I'm pretty sure that quitting my job isn't going to do it, and I'm fairly certain that vandalizing other people's possessions isn't going to do it.

Films like this frustrate me. I don't like to be told to root for characters who have no redeeming qualities except their own anger, boredom and sense of entitlement. Some filmmakers know how to do this and succeed (see: Days of Being Wild). Hans Weingartner isn't yet one of them. To the bottom of the list: just above Munich.

The Chumscrubber

Wow... The Chumscrubber, Arie Posin's social satire/drama is terrible. I mean really, really bad. I'd been looking forward to this movie. It has a cast that looked great on paper: Jamie Bell, Camilla Belle (who's great in The Ballad of Jack and Rose if you haven't checked it out yet), Glenn Close, Allison Janney, William Fichtner, Rita Wilson, Carrie-Ann Moss, Ralph Fiennes, John Heard, Jason Isaacs, Tim DeKay and even Lou Taylor Pucci who I loved so much in Thumbsucker (similar title, quite another movie altogether). This cast adds up to nothing, let me tell you. It's about drugs and kids and how much everyone's parents ignore them oh so much and how much angst all those little kids in "Generation Rx" (isn't that cute?) have. It's stupid. There's also this whole insanely ridiculous subplot about a man who's losing his mind and wants to paint dolphins everywhere. The titular "Chumscrubber" is some kind of video game creature... a symbol, I suppose for (duh) violent video games and their lasting effect on children. The video game guy doesn't really scrub chum or anything like that, though; he mostly just carries around his head and beats up zombies or something.

Arie Posin has no sense of subtlety whatsoever and the film is filled with idiotic shots and disconnected scenes. Mostly, the film is a cartoon: something that the director intends to look phoney and, after all is said and done, is phoney. He seems to succeed, except that the film never stops being phoney and nothing of any substance ever actually happens.

Moved to the bottom of the list: between Transamerica and Ladies in Lavender.

26 January 2006

Oscar Predictions

The Oscar Nominations, probably my favorite day of my whole year as an addict, are on Tuesday, January 31st at 5:30a. I like the nominations better because I feel like there are more surprises when the nominations come out than there are at the awards show itself. I almost always predict the awards pretty well, but the nominations are a whole other story. I actually am not sure I even like trying to predict the nominations, but my roommate is using the TV, so I can't watch my DVD of The Chumscrubber and I just don't feel like reading. So here are my predictions for Tuesday morning...

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Walk the Line

(Everyone is saying that Munich could show up here too but I just don't think anyone likes it. I think the other spoilers could be The Constant Gardener and King Kong. Cinderella Man is supposedly a dark horse, too. Whatever.)

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
(Note the similarity to Best Picture, here. As for alternates, I really think the Howard and Strathairn slots are both really vulnerable and could go to... who? Most frequently mentioned are Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man and Jeff Daniels for The Squid and the Whale, but I can't really see any lineup other than the one I'm predicting.)

Zhang Ziyi, Memoirs of a Geisha
Judi Dench, Mrs Henderson Presents
Charlize Theron, North Country
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica (Too bad, too. This film sucks.)
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
(I should be honest and say that I wish three of these performances weren't on this list. But then it seems no one is happy with this category this year. Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger) deserves to be on here like nobody's business. Maybe the Academy hasn't forgotten her and I will be happy on Tuesday morning. Maybe Q'orianka Kilcher (The New World) will show up too. Yeah. Right. Oh yeah, and the other spoiler is supposedly Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice). What?!?!)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Matt Dillon, Crash (This is so irritating.)
Bob Hoskins, Mrs Henderson Presents
George Clooney, Syriana
(I really wish William Hurt would show up here for A History of Violence, but I doubt it will happen. This is a pretty wide open category, I'm told. But as I see it, the same names get mentioned again and again and these are the ones. You might also see Don Cheadle for Crash here.)

Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
Catherine Keener, Capote
Amy Adams, Junebug
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
(OK, at the last minute I changed my mind here and added Adams. I hope hope hope she's nominated, but her slot will probably go to Scarlett Johanssen (Match Point) instead. This is a really hard category to call, but I thiink these are the favorites.)

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Bennett Miller, Capote
Paul Haggis, Crash
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Steven Spielberg, Munich
(This category is historically unpredictable. We might see someone as out there as David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) or Michael Haneke (Caché) here. No one really knows what the directing branch will do. Terrence Malick (The New World) could show too, as well as James Mangold (Walk the Line) or even Woody Allen (Match Point). Don't hold out for King Kong's director though. That's sooo 2003. We're all over it.)

Chicken Little
Corpse Bride
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Good Night, and Good Luck.
Match Point
The Squid and the Whale

A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Constant Gardener
The New World
(It's a shame no one liked Jarhead. It deserves a nomination.)

Cinderella Man
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Pride & Prejudice
The White Countess

Memoirs of a Geisha
Pride & Prejudice
The New World
The White Countess

Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The New World

I have no ideas about Best Song or any of the visual effects stuff. Expect Batman Begins to do well in all of those categories. War of the Worlds should make a showing here at least once as well and if I don't see The New World up for Best Makeup, there is something wrong with the world. I can't wait until Tuesday!!!

24 January 2006

Sad News from Reuters

Character actor Chris Penn, younger brother of Oscar-winner Sean Penn, was found dead on Tuesday at an apartment near the Pacific Ocean in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, police sources said.
No cause of death was immediately determined but there was no sign of foul play, the sources added.
A family spokeswoman confirmed the death and said the Penn family "would appreciate the media's respect of their privacy during this difficult time."
Penn, 43, was a character actor who appeared in dozens of films including Reservoir Dogs, Mullholland Falls and the 2004 film Starsky & Hutch.
In one of his best known roles, he played baby-faced criminal Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in director Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. He also starred along with his brother in the 1986 film At Close Range.
My favorite Chris Penn performance is his role as Kevin Bacon's friend in 1984's Footloose. I'll never forget the montage where Kevin Bacon teaches him how to dance. It's awesome. Let's hear it for the boy.

23 January 2006

Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire

I'm really tired and I only have the energy for surveys... that said, I got tired of the ones on the web and found two old standards: the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire from Apostrophe and Inside the Actors Studio and this survey, from the back page of Vanity Fair every month:

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being hugged from behind by the love of my life while barbecuing in my backyard
2. What is your greatest fear?
Failure in any of its forms
3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Oscar Wilde
4. Which living person do you most admire?
Jaime Rohrer, Arianna Huffington, Tony Kushner
5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
7. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Brilliant" and "totally"
8. What is your greatest regret?
Not being willing to love a man who loved me. I loved him for years afterward, but by then it was too late.
9. What is your greatest extravagance?
Currently, it's new furniture
10. What is your favorite journey?
The rehearsal, production and realization of a piece of theatre
11. On what occasion do you lie?
All the time
12. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
13. What do you dislike most about your appearance?
The fact that I'll never have washboard abs
14. Which living person do you most despise?
Any of a seemingly limitless number of religious nut-jobs
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The theatre
16. When and where were you happiest?
I'm happier every day
17. What is your current state of mind?
18. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to dance
19. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would spend more time with other people
20. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
I wish they did not believe in god
21. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
22. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A solar panel
23. If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
A gay man
24. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My B.A.
25. What is your most treasured possession?
My library
26. Where would you like to live?
On cliffs overlooking the ocean and where the wind never ends
27. What is your favorite occupation?
28. What is your most marked characteristic?
29. What is the quality you most like in a man?
30. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
31. Who are your favorite writers?
Tony Kushner, Michael Cunningham, Tori Amos
32. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Nick Guest from The Line of Beauty
33. Who are your heroes in real life?
Anyone doing with their life what it is they want to do most
34. What do you value most in your friends?
Adaptability, understanding
35. What are your favorite names?
Fernando, Tristan, Elizabeth, Madeleine
36. What is it that you most dislike?
Having to go to work
37. How would you like to die?
At the opera eating chocolate
38. What is your motto?
"Roll with the Punches" and "Don't Feed the Animals"

22 January 2006

Tony Takitani

This morning I saw a film that definitely would have been on my top 25 had I seen it before I made the list. It's called Tony Takitani and it's by Japanese filmmaker Ichikawa Jun. It's a beautiful, quiet, poetic little movie about a man who lives alone for his whole life until he finally meets a woman who is perfect for him. They live happily for some time. The catch is that she can't stop buying clothes. She fills closet after closet until they have to resort to buying more wardrobes to house all of the finery. Finally, there are so many clothes that they devote an entire room as a closet. It sounds kind of funny, but really it's not the least bit comedic. It's a movie about loneliness and loss and filling up empty spaces. The score is a solo piano concoction by Sakamoto Ryuichi, which I also loved.

I moved it to #10, bumping Millions off the list.

21 January 2006

Are you Serious?

Actress Geena Davis, formerly of The Accidental Tourist and Thelma & Louise, and currently on some television show with a female president, turned FIFTY today. Are you fucking kidding me? Have you seen this woman lately? Am I on crack?

South North Yes No

There is a difference, so says the most important American cookbook ever, between Southern Cornbread and Northern Cornbread. The latter, evidently, is lighter, with more milk and an egg or two. I will be making the Northern version for a birthday party/poker party I'll be attending at my friends' house in Valencia.

This evening I saw Sally Potter's Yes. I like Joan Allen more and more. She's really a brilliant actress and I haven't appreciated her much until this year. Yes has a lot of problems and I only barely gave it three stars on Netflix (the old "I liked it more than I didn't like it" story.) It's full of artificial little cinematic things that Sally Potter's playing with, which is fine except that it's constantly distancing the audience. Sam Neill has this silent semi-dance number in it to an Eric Clapton song which is really phenomenal and like I said, Joan Allen is wonderful. The film, I should also mention, looks simply gorgeous. Potter has filled it with bright, rich colors throughout and pale, medical whites at various intervals. It's a relationship study in color like a Douglas Sirk movie with similar melodramatic tendencies. The best part about Yes, though, are these musings on dirt and its inevitability by the maid in the film (Shirley Henderson), who looks right at the audience and talks right to us. It is she who, finally, explains the title of the film. She says "There's no such thing as nothing, not at all. / It may be really very, very small / But it's still there. In fact I think I'd guess / That 'no' does not exist. There's only 'yes'." Oh yeah, did I mention the whole film is in rhymed iambic couplets?

Anyway, I do kind of dig the idea that there's no such thing as no: that possibilities always exist.

17 January 2006

Hilarious Golden Globe Reactions

OK, so I didn't watch the show, but this Defamer redux of the evenings events is flat out hilarious. My favorite part is the celebrity cleavage watch.
Best quote: "If you don’t find yourself rummaging around the kitchen for a blender large enough to fit around the human head by the time they sing, 'Don’t cha love that Russell can throw left hooks/Don’t cha know the cowboy with his good looks?' you’re far more generous souls than we are."

Best Supporting Actress

My ballot (funnily enough, I don't think ANY of my choices will be nominated on January 31st):
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AMY ADAMS, Junebug

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BRENDA BLETHYN, Pride & Prejudice

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GONG LI, 2046

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DIANE KEATON, The Family Stone


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MADELEINE POTTER, The White Countess

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15 January 2006

Best Supporting Actor

My ballot. These are my top five and the ones who I think need the vote most are at the top:
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RAY WISE, Good Night, and Good Luck.

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KEVIN COSTNER, The Upside of Anger

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SIMON WOODS, Pride & Prejudice

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WILLIAM HURT, A History of Violence

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JAKE GYLLENHAAL, Brokeback Mountain

Runners-up (photos of everyone this time):
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JAMES McAVOY, The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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FRANK LANGELLA, Good Night, and Good Luck.

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PAUL GIAMATTI, Cinderella Man

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14 January 2006

Nina Simone / Tropical Malady

Today's film was experimental Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady. It was weird to say the least. I liked it more than I disliked it, but just. I feel the same way about Tropical Malady that I feel about Tsai Ming-Liang's Goodbye Dragon Inn: I kinda liked it but I would never recommend it to anyone.

I haven't been going to the movies, lately. In fact, I haven't seen anything new in the theatre since Caché, which I saw last Sunday. I've been mining the DVD library. I want to catch up on all of the 2005 stuff I missed. This week that has meant Happy Endings (mostly good with some excellent performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lisa Kudrow) and Tropical Malady. Next week, hopefully, it will mean Yes, Hustle & Flow and Kings and Queen.

Last night I saw Brokeback Mountain for the second time. It's even better, quite honestly. I saw it this time, with my dear friend Elizabeth, and we were both in tears when the lights came up. (I was also sniffling quite unattractively.) The thing I noticed this time around was how brilliantly Ang Lee created the mythic proportions of the love between Ennis and Jack. Every time they are together and alone, the scenery is breathtaking: wide vistas, beautiful rivers, immaculate lighting. Even when they are alone together in the hotel after their first four years apart, the camera never pulls back to show their surroundings, it keeps tight in on the two lovers, just giving us them and not putting us in a setting of any kind. And when the men are away from each other the settings are bleak, never beautiful, always surrounded by people wearing scowls or stuck in unnavigable social situations. All of this cinematically combines to make their rendezvous, though few and far between, feel special, freeing to the audience, as though the characters, away from the madness of their distasteful normal lives, can finally be themselves. It's a brilliant film and it's looking more and more like the eventual Best Picture winner on March fifth.

Also and totally off topic from cinema, I purchased a Nina Simone cd on Tuesday and I guess I've never heard this song "The Other Woman" but I am absolutely in love with A) Nina Simone herself and B) this heart-rending song. There's a poorly-recorded live Jeff Buckley version floating around the internet and it's pretty good, too, but Nina Simone's rendition is unforgettable.

12 January 2006

Best Actress

My ballot would look like this:
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JOAN ALLEN, The Upside of Anger

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JUDI DENCH, Mrs Henderson Presents & Ladies in Lavender.

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Runners-up: Camilla Belle, The Ballad of Jack and Rose; Glenn Close, Heights; Ziyi Zhang, 2046 (not for Memoirs of a Geisha); Patricia Clarkson, The Dying Gaul; Lisa Kudrow, Happy Endings.

Related: My Best Actress picks for 2004

So Easy to Please

I'm so easy to please. Whenever anyone plays into my laziness and comes to visit me, I get so happy so quickly! Maybe it's because most of the time I spend with my friends I spend in their homes or in places far from where I live. Or maybe it's just that I hate driving. But last night a friend came and picked me up and we hung around Pasadena and I was perfectly content.

I'm feeling sentimental right now. It's mostly loathsome, but it's a rut. And I need to leave for work right now.

11 January 2006

This is Hilarious - And I'm a Registered Libertarian!

Stolen from :

You are a

Social Liberal
(88% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(55% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I think my answers about the Environment are what moved me away from the Libertarian corner.

10 January 2006

Best Actor

My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote:
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ROMAIN DURIS, The Beat That My Heart Skipped

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HEATH LEDGER, Brokeback Mountain

Runners-up: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jarhead; Damien Nguyen, The Beautiful Country; Daniel Day-Lewis, The Ballad of Jack and Rose; Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man; Peter Sarsgaard, The Dying Gaul; Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line.

Related: My Best Actor picks for 2004

More Movie Stuff for 2005

A more complete list of all the films I've seen this year has been requested, so here are the sixty-five I've seen so far for 2005:

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1. The New World
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Good Night, and Good Luck.
4. Pride & Prejudice
5. Me and You and Everyone We Know
6. A History of Violence
7. Caché
8. Junebug
9. Capote
10. The Constant Gardener
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11. Match Point
12. Kingdom of Heaven
13. Thumbsucker
14. Mrs Henderson Presents
15. Jarhead
16. Downfall
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17. The Beautiful Country
18. The Family Stone
19. Syriana
20. The Beat That My Heart Skipped
21. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
22. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Really liked:
23. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
24. Batman Begins
25. Millions
26. The Ballad of Jack and Rose
27. The Upside of Anger

Liked more than I disliked:
28. Cinderella Man
29. Brothers
30. Walk the Line
31. In Her Shoes
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32. 3-iron
33. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
34. Bee Season
35. Shopgirl
36. Casanova
37. My Summer of Love
38. King Kong
39. Kung Fu Hustle
40. Wedding Crashers
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41. The White Countess
42. Melinda and Melinda

Barely liked more than I disliked:
43. The Squid and the Whale
44. 2046
45. Walk on Water
46. The Dying Gaul
47. Mysterious Skin
48. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
49. Heights

50. Broken Flowers
51. Crash
52. Last Days
53. Proof
54. Prime
55. North Country
56. Monster-in-law
57. Memoirs of a Geisha
58. Sin City

59. Munich

Complete and total wastes of time:
60. Ma Mère
61. Ladies in Lavender.
62. Transamerica
63. Steamboy
64. Chicken Little
65. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

And to show what a loner I truly am: The other films I saw this year that were released prior to 2005: about 100 more movies.
Cyrano de Bergerac 1990
Spellbound 1945
Tre Fratelli (Three Brothers) 1981
The Wiz 1978
Wu Jian Do (Infernal Affairs) 2002
Short Cuts 1993
The Cardinal 1963
The Last Temptation of Christ 1988
Before Sunrise 1995
Dead Man 1995
A Fei Jing Juen (Days of Being Wild) 1991
The Broadway Melody 1929
Chong Qing Sen Lin (Chung King Express) 1994
Wall Street 1987
Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai) 1954
Mona Lisa 1986
The Music Man 1962
Street Smart 1987
The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941
Bu San (Good Bye Dragon Inn) 2003
Witness for the Prosecution 1957
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge 1990
North by Northwest 1959
Le Dernier Métro (The Last Metro) 1980
Stage Door 1937
Bird 1988
Becky Sharp 1935
Purple Rain 1984
Duo Luo Tian Shi (Fallen Angels) 1995
Footloose 1984
Stella Dallas 1937
Shakespeare Wallah 1965
Oldboy 2003
Quartet 1981
Come and Get It 1936
Algiers 1938
One Fine Day 1996
The Europeans 1979
Norma Rae 1979
Divorzio all'Italiana (Divorce Italian Style) 1961
My Own Private Idaho 1991
Rear Window 1954
Wilson 1944
The Householder 1963
Face/Off 1997
Pickup on South Street 1953
Laura 1944
Street Angel 1928
Days of Wine and Roses 1962
Down by Law 1986
Heat and Dust 1983
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice 1969
Autobiography of a Princess 1975
8 1/2 1963
Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice) 1971
La Strada 1954
The Sheltering Sky 1990
Rebel Without a Cause 1955
I Soliti Ignoti 1958
La Reine Margot (Queen Margot) 1994
Nashville 1975
The Snake Pit 1948
Birdman of Alcatraz 1962
Anna and the King of Siam 1946
The Razor's Edge 1946
Pather Panchali (Pather Panchali: Song of the Little Road) 1955
Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) 1958
In Old Arizona 1929
Edward Scissorhands 1990
East of Eden 1955
Out of Rosenheim (Bagdad Cafe) 1987
Pillow Talk 1959
Psycho 1960
Donnie Darko 2001
Friendly Persuasion 1956
The Tin Star 1957
Brief Encounter 1945
De Tweeling (Twin Sisters) 2002
The Gold Rush 1942
Miyamoto Musashi (Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto) 1954
Sorry, Wrong Number 1948
Detective Story 1951
Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) 1972
Roma, Città Aperta (Open City) 1945
Lifeboat 1944
The Killers 1946
Ultimo Tango a Parigi (Last Tango in Paris) 1972
3 Hommes et un Couffin (Three Men and a Cradle) 1985
The Spiral Staircase 1946
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946
The Paper Chase 1973
The Stranger 1946
A Letter to Three Wives 1949
Royal Wedding 1951
Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment 1966

Soon: Final Oscar predictions and my favorite performances of 2005.

09 January 2006

Top Twenty-five for 2005

I've seen 65 movies so far this year, and though there will be more to come, it's time to release the big list. Films I've yet to see for 2005 (there are a lot): Breakfast on Pluto, The Producers, Rent, The Chumscrubber, Howl's Moving Castle, The World, Good Morning Night, My Mother's Smile, The Best of Youth, The Aristocrats, Kings and Queen, The Weeping Meadow, Tropical Malady, Saraband, Head-On, Yesterday, The Edukators, Love in Thoughts, Kontroll, Naked Fame, Fear and Trembling, Tony Takitani, The Girl from Monday,
The Keys to the House, War of the Worlds, 5X2, Hustle & Flow, Yes
. Most of these are on their way from Netflix.


25. Millions Visually unique and touching without being overly sentimental or cloying, this film from Danny Boyle (28 Days) is definitely worth the rental if you missed it. It's on DVD now.

24. Batman Begins Though they usually are, this big-budget movie from Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) is proof that comic book movies need not be completely vapid wastes of time. Christian Bale is excellent as the hero and Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson are great villains. The film re-writes Batman legend somewhat, but the film is sharp, clever and dark. Goodbye Joel Schumacher and the sad days of Batman Forever.

23. The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe The longest title of the year is also a touching children's movie full of wonderful creations and a fascinating world of magic. This adaptation is leagues better than the old adaptations that played on PBS. Having read these books when I was very young, the film immediately recalled my childhood and I was pleasantly surprised by Andrew Adamson's sensitivity as a director. This from the man who directed Shrek and it's sequel.

22. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire A series of films that gets better and better. This installment, directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco) is the darkest one yet and it's pitch-perfect. Ralph Fiennes is wonderful as Voldemort He-who-must-not-be-named, Daniel Radcliffe might actually be becoming a good actor and that little Emma Watson just gets cuter and cuter. Bonus points for all the Fred & George shenanigans this time around.

21. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Shane Black directs this absolutely hilarious black comedy with Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer and Corbin Bernsen (!). It's a noir-ish thriller with a plot that's only person is silliness and hilarity. Don't worry about solving the mystery. It doesn't matter a bit. The jokes in this film cut to the bone and the dialogue is razor sharp. And Robert Downey Jr. is officially back. He has excellent comic timing and he's a delight to watch.

20. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (De Battre Mon Cœur S'est Arrêté) This adaptation of James Toback's Fingers is a white-hot character study about a thug who used to be a piano prodigy carving out his place in the world and deciding to take back control of his life. The central performance, by Romain Duris, is a cinematic wonder: compelling and invigorating. Directed by Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips, Venus Beauty Institute).

19. Syriana This movie, by writer-director Stephen Gaghan (he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Traffic) is a convoluted, fascinating ensemble drama about Western relations with Middle Eastern oil-producing regions. The film is always smart and always at least a step or two ahead of its audience. It's tough to stomach and I definitely left the theatre feeling depressed and overwhelmed, but it's a film that's demands respect and attention.

18. The Family Stone Thomas Bezucha (Big Eden) directed this hysterically funny family drama about the Christmas that changed the lives of a whole family. The family-member dynamic is brilliantly played. Many things go unsaid and quiet understandings between family members abound. It features excellent performances by Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Craig T. Nelson, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Ty Giordano, Claire Danes, Brian White, Elizabeth Reaser and especially Diane Keaton as the clan's troubled matriarch. Touching, sensitive and very funny: a must see Christmas movie.

17. The Beautiful Country Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland directs this story about a half-Vietnamese half-American man's journey from Viet Nam to the United States to finally meet his father. The way is long and paved with sorrows but the finale is satisfying and incredibly moving. This is a story about the long legacy left by American involvement in Asia. The film co-stars Nick Nolte, Tim Roth and Bai Ling (!) but it is newcomer Damien Nguyen who plays the lead that knocked my socks off. He's quiet and patient and makes you love him instantly.

16. Downfall (Der Untergang) Oliver Herschbiegel's drama about the last days of Hitler, locked in that bunker in Berlin, is based on the actual account by Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge. It's a chilling, intriguing film featuring a truly psychotic performance by Bruno Ganz as the Führer. Hirschbiegel's direction is excellent and it's a fine line he's walking, but it's impossible not to sympathize with some of the people in that bunker: even Eva Braun.

15. Jarhead Poetic and beautiful, this non-war film by director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) is an intriguing adaptation of Anthony Swofford's point of view of Operation Desert Storm. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent and Peter Sarsgaard is desperate and sad. This movie boasts one visual stunner after the next and is full of powerful musings on not only the subject of war in general, but also American involvement in the Middle East and the troubling realities of American military culture.

14. Mrs Henderson Presents This comedy by mutable director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Liam, Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity) boasts a terrific, hilarious performance by the wonderful Judi Dench. It's a shallow WWII comedy about an older woman's loves and goals and the laughs abound. Christopher Guest is hilarious and almost unrecognizable as the Lord Chamberlain.

13. Thumbsucker Mike Mills' ensemble drama about adolescent habits and hang-ups is not your run-of-the-mill high school story. It's an engaging moving film about parents letting go of their children and one young man realizing how much he's really loved by his parents. It's about growing up and leaving behind what you don't need and becoming a man. The movie features wonderful turns from Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn. Lou Taylor Pucci is wonderful as the titular hero: he's expressive and heartbreaking and you watch him grow up in front of your eyes.

12. Kingdom of Heaven I hear there's a longer version of this film playing out there right now. It's supposed to be heads and tails better than the original, which I already thought was a pretty good film. Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down ) directs this film about Middle East/Western relations in the time of the crusades. It's a film about a battle between religious groups that actually ends in peace without bloodshed. Orlando Bloom is excellent as the hero of the film and the film is visually incredible. The costumes are stunning and Scott's battle scenes alone are worth the price of admission.

11. Match Point Woody Allen (Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall, Interiors, Crimes & Misdemeanors) is back! After serving up brilliant film after brilliant film in the seventies and eighties, he's made his best film since 1994's Bullets over Broadway. The new one is a dark, riveting suspense tale that had me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails. Allen's own brand of morality is all over the film and his musings on luck are very clever. The dialogue doesn't zing quite as much as it does in his best features, but Match Point is a great tribute to Hitchcock and an excellent vehicle for his new muse Scarlett Johanssen.

10. The Constant Gardener The new film from Brazilian director Fernando Mierelles (City of God) is superb. This adaptation of John Le Carré's novel is a seat-of-your-pants thrill ride/mystery featuring terrific performances by Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes. It's stunningly well-shot and the mystery is dense and chilling. The best word to describe it is audacious: I left the theatre thinking "I can't believe anyone made this movie."

9. Capote Bennett Miller's first feature is about Truman Capote's research and composition of the non-fiction crime book In Cold Blood. It's a meta-literary piece about a fascinating character: Truman Capote, himself, played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman (he'll probably win an Oscar for this.) The film slices and dices Capote as a sensitive artist, a loving partner, a cosmopolitan celebrity and a morally bankrupt manipulator. The man/monster is all of these things and more. It's an indescribably incredible portrait: probably the most intelligent film I saw all year.

8. Junebug This film by Phil Morrison (remember this guy's name: he might be the next Jarmusch) is about red-state blue-state differences and has no easy answers to the questions it raises. It's about morality and values (though thankfully, never homosexuality... I get tired of hearing about it) and the power of family. It's also really funny and boasts a comic/poignant turn by actress Amy Adams as the film's conscience.

7. Caché Michael Haneke's (The Piano Teacher) film is about a couple (Daniel Auteuil & Juliette Binoche) who begins receiving videotapes of themselves and their son. The videos have no messages attached to them and they receive no word from anyone asking for anything. The film, very simply, creates a quiet atmosphere of terror and sneaks it up on its main characters and its audience. There are some wild, shocking scenes in the film, and the movie is unnerving and terrific without hardly trying at all. It's a superb, truly scary, portrait of terrorism and eerily prescient in its exploration of Franco-Algerian relations.

6. A History of Violence David Cronenberg goes mainstream, well, a little. Cronenberg's essay of the legacy of violence in a family, no matter how far down it is pushed is riveting and powerful. The role of violence in the American family is the film's topic of choice and what the movie has to say is fascinating and unique. Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello and William Hurt are incredible and the range of the violence explored in the film is almost mind-boggling.

5. Me and You and Everyone We Know I recommend Miranda July's first film to everyone. It's wonderful: full of realistic magical moments, pitch-perfect performances, and a view of the world that makes me think about all of the stuff I miss out on. It's explorations of adolescent sexuality are occasionally uncomfortable but always sensitive. Not just a film, this is a performance piece about performance itself and the magic in everyday life.

4. Pride & Prejudice A delight from start to finish, this is a romantic comedy with true heart and sincerity. From material you would assume has been done to death emerges a film of cleverness and warmth with some excellent performances and loads of true ensemble work. Kiera Knightley is great, Matthew MacFadyen smoldering, Brenda Blethyn deliciously pathetic, and Simon Woods adorable. Joe Wright's romance gets under your skin and has you grinning from ear to ear. I was just about to burst when this film ended I was so happy. Truly a joyous, delectable confection of a fairy tale.

3. Good Night, and Good Luck. George Clooney (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) directs this true life story of Edward R. Murrow's public war with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Eisenhower era. It's a rumination on the responsibilities of television journalists and the need for accountability in government. It's a film that is as much about the prisoners held in Guantanamo as it is a film about the Communist scare in 1950's America. Beautifully shot with fantastic ensemble work from Tate Donovan, David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella, the incredible Ray Wise (undeservedly ignored this awards' season), Jeff Daniels and George Clooney. Clooney brilliantly has McCarthy essentially play himself by using old footage of the man to convict him. I applauded when this film ended and I hear stories of other audiences doing the same thing. It's an affectionate portrait of a liberal hero fighting for the rights of all Americans.

2. Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee's (Eat Drink Man Woman, The Wedding Banquet, Sense & Sensibility) "gay cowboy" movie is just that and way more. It's the epic love story of the year: sweeping, rapturous and devastating with a central performance by Heath Ledger that feels like a revelation. This adaptation of a story by E. Annie Proulx is much better than the story itself, filling in the story's gaps beautifully and sufficiently. Romantic to its very core, Brokeback may not deserve all of its hype and publicity as a film that's trying to undermine this countries moral fabric, but it definitely deserves its critical accolades. Look for this to win Best Picture at the Oscars come March 2006.

1. The New World Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven) takes his time between films. It's been 7 years since The Thin Red Line, one of my favorite films of all time, and the wait between features is frustrating but rewarding. The New World is a singular vision of newness and perception. Entirely subjective, with three main characters, it's gorgeously shot and contains excellent performances from Colin Farrell and Christian Bale as well as the amazing discovery of 15-year-old Q'orianka Kilcher, who plays Pocahontas. Kilcher is unbelievably brilliant in this part and gives one of the best performances of the year by anyone. Malick is a patient, exacting filmmaker and this is a near-perfect film about sensation and the deep internal musings of those in love. My favorite film of the year is also the most beautiful film of the year.

As always, if you feel I've left something out, feel free to comment. Comment anyway; I'd love to read opinions about this list.

I don't see too many films that I hate, but the five worst films that I saw in 2005 were, ending with the worst: Ladies in Lavender., Transamerica, Steamboy, Chicken Little, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

Related links: My Top Twenty-five for 2004. (My favorite thing that I wrote on this page is "Alexander gets the award for hottest guy in a movie where hardly anyone wears clothes but who stayed dressed all the time even though he's a total homo.)

07 January 2006

I might be in love with Scott Foundas of the L.A. Weekly

This is from the last day of Slate Magazine's Movie Club 2005:
Nothing ticks me off more than when someone asks me if I ever go to see a movie "just for fun" or starts telling me what he or she thought of a particular movie only to interject, "but of course, I'm not a professional critic." Well, I've got news for everybody: Neither am I. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, none of us in this happy little clique went to Film Critic Academy. As James Agee so memorably wrote in his debut column for the Nation, "It is my business to conduct one end of a conversation, as an amateur critic among amateur critics." But it was also Agee, I believe, who said something about how readers couldn't reasonably expect someone who sees as many movies as a critic (even an amateur one) does to just sit back and let the umpteenth derivative of some hackneyed Hollywood formula to roll over him without objection.

My god! I have this debate all the time with people at work, with my brother, with random people with whom I dare to discuss my views on movies. And what Foundas is saying only very recently occurred to me. In addition to my tastes being different than my coworkers', I simply see more movies than they do--way more movies--and so my frame of reference is vastly different than theirs. I mention twenty of my favorite movies and they've only even heard of three of them--that kind of thing always stuns me.
Foundas also says a few things about Crash that I love:
Admittedly, Paul Haggis' directorial debut wasn't one of those so-bad-it's-mesmerizing debacles, like Town & Country or The Bonfire of the Vanities, that Tony so lovingly remembered a few weeks back in the Times—if it had been, it wouldn't have made my blood boil nearly as much. No, Crash is an Important Film About the Times in Which We Live, which is another way of saying that it's one of those self-congratulatory liberal jerk-off movies that rolls around every once in a while to remind us of how white people suffer too, how nobody is without his prejudices, and how, when the going gets tough, even the white supremacist cop who gets his kicks from sexually harassing innocent black motorists is capable of rising to the occasion. How touching. Haggis is trafficking in much the same territory here as Michael Haneke is in Caché, only he lacks the guts to pull out his paring knife and fillet his bourgeois characters with the mercilessness they deserve. (Instead, when Sandra Bullock's pampered Brentwood housewife accuses a Mexican-American locksmith of copying her keys for illicit purposes, Haggis doesn't condemn her reprehensible behavior so much as he sympathizes with it.) People who say that Crash is an insightful portrait of life in Los Angeles clearly don't live in the same town I do.

See what I mean? I need to start reading this guy a little more closely.

06 January 2006


I'm still feeling really anti-Munich. I read somewhere they're calling it "Munich-negative" on the boards. I was thinking this morning about Tony Kushner, one of my idols. He allegedly co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth. I'd like to think he wrote the interesting talky parts: Ciáran Hinds and Eric Bana's scene after the CIA thwarts them in Athens or Lynn Cohen's speech at the beginning, but I hated this picture so much and I really find it difficult to include Mr. Kushner in the crafting of this film at all. Obviously, I think it's great that Mr. Kushner might actually win an Oscar one day, but hopefully he's not nominated for this half-baked pile of junk.

05 January 2006

Fuck Munich

In complete seriousness, I have to say that I hated Munich. I hated it. I toyed with just saying that I didn't care for it, it isn't my thing, whatever. I hated this movie. It made me angry--still makes me angry just thinking about it.
On the filmmaking side, I found it totally boring having absolutely no one to root for the whole film. On the political side of things (and the film is inextricably political in nature--not a bad thing: see Good Night, and Good Luck., Gangs of New York, etc.) I am infuriated. Not only does Spielberg refuse to take sides in the Palestine/Israel conflict, he chooses to idealize both groups and then dehumanize both groups. Instead, the most heroic character in the film is the character who doesn't kill for family or misplaced Nationalism, but for money. It is Capitalism that comes out as king in Munich. And I'm supposed to feel--what?--for the lead character, Eric Bana's "Avner."? What am I supposed to feel for this man: the butcher with the heart of gold? Was he justified? I don't even know or care because I feel like the amount of information that I absorbed during Munich was negligible.

Munich, in fact, doesn't have anything serious to say at all. Spielberg refuses to be serious. Munich is filled to the brim with little jokes and half-assed suspense sequences (the reason I hate Spielberg to begin with). There's no point in investing in a suspense sequence with this man. You were worrying for nothing. That Zyklon B Embeth Davitz is about to inhale is only water. Don't worry. Don't fret: the little girl in the trailer for Munich who answers the phone--you remember the one--she won't die. It's a fake out. The same old fakeout we're used to seeing in Spielberg's movies. And that's all Munich is: a fakeout for something of substance.

04 January 2006

The New World

Tonight I went to the Arclight to see Terrence Malick's The New World. I should write a proper review of the film, but I can't really handle that right now. Instead I will say that I am absolutely ecstatic about this film. I feel a little bit drunk on it, if you know what I mean. Like I was feeding off of the film and now it's over and I'm a little helpless. It's a wonderful, sensory-overload kind of thing with two lovely performances at its core. Colin Farrell's John Smith is a haunted, tender man and the new-to-cinema Q'orianka Kilcher's Pocahantas is a rare gem of a performance. In this girl's eyes are held everything anyone could ever hope for: the rise and fall of nations, pain like you wouldn't believe, and all the forgiveness in the world. I'm sold. The movie is wonderful: a feast for the eyes and ears. The cinematography is so stunning I wanted to cry and the score (by James Horner) is heartbreakingly lovely.

I had planned on seeing The New World tonight anyway, but when I got home from the Airport, I read an item saying that tonight was the very last night that this current version of the film will be playing. After tonight, they will replace this version with a shorter-by-seventeen-minutes cut of the film. I'm glad I saw the cut I did.

I moved The New World to number one on my list for the year. Malick may not be your thing, but it's definitely mine, so I'm recommending it to everyone. Go see it.

02 January 2006


I haven't been to work in what seems like forever. I haven't been sleeping in my own bed, either, though all will go back to normal tomorrow morning when I wake up for work. I was in Monument, Colorado for Christmas where it didn't snow at all--though it was fucking freezing cold, and I was in Big Bear Lake, California for New Year's Eve where it snowed on the way out of town (luckily). I had never seen it snow before.

The sun is out here, now, after days of gloom and rain. I might even go visit my friend up in Valencia this afternoon. (A cloud just covered the sun.)

Back from Colorado, I have been watching movies like mad... making up for lost time. I'm behind in my viewing now: this is what I get for missing a week of movie-watching. I watched only one movie in Colorado, and that one was from 1951. (If you haven't seen Royal Wedding, Astaire dances on the ceiling, Jane Powell performs brilliantly in a New York-style dance number, and Peter Lawford looks extremely cute, but it doesn't have much else going for it.)

Capsule reviews of the movies I've seen since my return from CO:
The White Countess I found kind of disappointing. Like all Merchant-Ivory pictures, I suppose it will improve with more viewings, but this film has a few troubles: mostly script problems. It looks gorgeous and is quietly moving, like most of Ivory's films, but it isn't quite as subtle as it ought to be. Madeleine Potter gives a superior performance.
Crash is all about racism. Racism, racism, racism. Everyone, in case you were unaware, is racist, and justice, in case you were confused, is impossible to achieve. The best scene in the film is a scene between good cop Ryan Philippe and hopelessly corrupt cop Keith David, where the older, black officer and the young idealist white officer conspire to keep bigoted officer Matt Dillon in a position of power. This film is irresponsible and silly, not to mention unapologetically sympathetic to a whole cadre of odious, unsympathetic characters.
Casanova is unabashedly silly and totally fun. It loses its initial cleverness about halfway through, but remains somewhat witty. The whole thing is ridiculous, but I thought it was fun. Plus I'm in love with Heath Ledger now. (There isn't anywhere near the amount of nudity there ought to have been in the picture, unfortunately.)
Transamerica sucked. It could've been a good road picture and it could have been a poignant father-son saga. It's neither. Felicity Huffman is occasionally believable as a transgender woman, but this film is terrible. The script is a total mess. None of the characters' motives make the least bit of sense and the non-resolution is utterly ludicrous. Fionnula Flanagan is terrible beyond words as Bree's scenery-chewing mother.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose is an exquisite little gem of a film about late-sixties idealism and the legacy this movement passed on to its children. Camilla Belle is extraordinary, Catherine Keener does her usual superb and dependable supporting work and Daniel Day-Lewis gives a raw, heartbreaking performance. The photography is breathtaking. It's a wonderful portrait of an idyll in turmoil and (perhaps) the end of an era. I liked it enormously.

Still in the Netflix queue from 2005:
The Beautiful Country, Tropical Malady, Yes, Kings and Queen, Hustle & Flow, My Summer of Love, Saraband, Happy Endings, The Girl from Monday, 5X2, Head-on, Fear and Trembling, War of the Worlds

Still to see in theatres from 2005 (i.e. call me if you want to catch a flick one night this week, as I will be going to see one every night):
Munich, Match Point, Caché, The New World, The Producers, The Libertine


Happy New Year